Denuclearisation to top Moon’s Pyongyang agenda

0
17408

A man walks past a giant banner showing a picture of the summit handshake between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul City Hall on September 13, 2018. South Korean President Moon Jae-in will fly to North Korea’s capital on September 18, for a third summit with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un as US efforts to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal have stalled. / AFP PHOTO / Jung Yeon-je

Denuclearisation will be high on the agenda for this week’s inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday on the eve of his third meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Moon will fly to the North Korean capital on Tuesday for the latest stage in a diplomatic thaw on the peninsula, although progress has stalled in denuclearisation talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

“I’ve confirmed the sincere willingness of both Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump on several occasions,” Moon said during a Cabinet meeting.

“I plan to hold frank talks with Chairman Kim Jong Un on ways to find a point of compromise between the US demand for denuclearisation and the North’s demand for ending hostile relations,” he added.

Moon, who met Kim in April and May this year, was instrumental in brokering the historic Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in June, when Kim backed denuclearisation of the “Korean peninsula”.

But no details were agreed and Washington and Pyongyang have sparred since over what that means and how it will be achieved.

The US is pressing for the North’s “final, fully verified denuclearisation”, while Pyongyang is seeking a formal declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is over — hostilities ceased with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. It has condemned demands for it to give up its weapons unilaterally as “gangster-like”.

The dovish South Korean leader — who has gladly taken on the role of a mediator — will try to close the gap between the US and the North, according to Moon’s chief of staff Im Jong-seok.

“Through various meetings and phone calls, President Moon has a better understanding of what the US is thinking than Chairman Kim,” Im told reporters.

Moon is due to fly to New York later this month to attend the UN General Assembly, where he is expected to meet Trump.

Moon will hold at least two formal meetings with Kim, who may make a rare appearance at the airport to welcome his guests, the chief of staff said.

The South’s president is also scheduled to attend a concert and visit key sites in the North’s capital with his delegation, which includes tycoons Lee Jae-yong — the heir to the Samsung group — and the vice chairman of Hyundai Motor.

Moon has been pushing inter-Korean economic co-operation but several South Korean newspapers urged caution Monday, with the Korea Herald calling the businessmen’s presence on the trip “untimely”.

“It is better to postpone economic projects involving the North until after negotiations to remove its nuclear program make substantial progress,” it said in an editorial.

And investment in the North was “fraught with risks and uncertainty”, it added.

Other issues on Moon’s agenda will be improving inter-Korean ties and easing military tensions on the peninsula. Seoul said this could lay the groundwork for a declaration on the Korean War – implying that such an announcement was unlikely during the trip.